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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

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Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Smaller sensor - smaller lenses
Old 10-19-2017   #1
Bill Pierce
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Smaller sensor - smaller lenses

One of the things we didn’t talk much about in our recent thread about different sensor sizes were the different sizes of lenses for cameras with different sized sensors. When it comes to the tiny sensor bodies, there are cameras with an effective 28 to 600mm zoom that are small enough to be easily carried and used without tracking attention. The sensor limitations are such that you will want to use a relatively low ISO to maintain image quality. But I don’t shoot much with an effective 600mm lens in bad light indoors.

There in lies the rub. You can take a relatively compact full frame mirrorless body, but when you put a long lens, fixed focal length or zoom on it, you up the weight and size of the rig ’til it’s almost the same size for all practical purposes as a big DSLR.

For me the sweet spot is the APS-C sensor. High speed, long focal length lenses are still big and heavy, but the majority of lenses that we normally use are, for me, conveniently sized. I know that many of us think that the image quality edge goes to full frame and disagree with me. But my conviction is that sensors have improved dramatically and there are so many other factors in image quality that sensor size is no longer the overriding factor that it might have been. Processing programs and our ability with them have a huge effect. And those many things that effect image quality in all photography - lens quality, accurate focus, lack of camera movement, are once again in full play.

Does sensor size matter? Of course. But in that long list of different sized sensors, are two adjacent sensor sizes dramatically different in performance. I don’t think so. And I do think in many situations, the smaller lenses that are part and parcel of the smaller sensor rig give us a more compact rig that offers advantages in a variety of situations. Smaller sensor - smaller lenses - smaller rig. To me, that can be important, and I would like to know how you feel about it.
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Old 10-20-2017   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
For me the sweet spot is the APS-C sensor. High speed, long focal length lenses are still big and heavy, but the majority of lenses that we normally use are, for me, conveniently sized. I know that many of us think that the image quality edge goes to full frame and disagree with me. But my conviction is that sensors have improved dramatically and there are so many other factors in image quality that sensor size is no longer the overriding factor that it might have been. Processing programs and our ability with them have a huge effect.
I completely agree. Very happy with Fuji.
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Old 10-20-2017   #3
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As I age, I develop more maladies that limit the things I can do. Luckily, technology has helped me continue to engage in my passion for photography. Autofocus compensated for my increasingly dim vision, image stabilization for my increasingly unsteady hands and smaller and lighter equipment is helping me cope with the joint pain and discomfort.

Like Bill, I also believe APS-C is the sweet spot as far as size-to-quality in formats are concerned. Now, with smaller and lighter mirrorless APS-C equipment becoming increasingly available, the format has more appeal. While I was a Canon film SLR and APS-C DSLR user for years, I was an early adopter of the M4/3 format as well as a user of the Olympus standard 4/3 DSLR system. I appreciated the weight savings involved but found the slightly larger format to also be slightly better in overall image quality. It now feels like the best of both worlds with mirrorless APS-C equipment.
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Old 10-20-2017   #4
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I shoot LF still, and 35mm film. But for digital, the APS-C is my everday camera. For portraits, landscapes, hiking, travel.....the Fuji XE has been great.
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Old 10-20-2017   #5
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For me APS-C is still just a compromise. It is good for walking around with a small fixed length.
With a small zoom it becomes a bit bulkier but it still works.
24x36 does it better but - few choices and high prices compared with APS-C.
Waiting still I can afford a GFX50 therefore.

All telephoto and / or special things like panos are done with compacts and I´m happy so far
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Old 10-20-2017   #6
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Fuji will come up a lot in this thread.
Those fuji lenses are a game changer for apsc imo.
The new bayer body is an interest development.
X-trans solved one issue but has created some others.
Fuji has a nice history of creating a good path for bayer output (S5 pro anyone?).
Would like to see some of that technology offered with the X-lens mount.
Yes to aps! It has made everyday carry easier with little iq loss.
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Old 10-20-2017   #7
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I own a Fuji XT1 with a few lenses which doesn't weigh to much , but my real 'weight saver' is the full frame Rx1mII.
Just over a pound it is my carry everywhere with the best IQ in a small package possible.
It has only 2 limitations:
1) just 35mm. (but a lot of crop potential)
2) I always have to carry some spare batteries in my pocket

If you can cope with (1) than this is the best low weight photo solution.
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Old 10-20-2017   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by f16sunshine View Post
Fuji will come up a lot in this thread.
Those fuji lenses are a game changer for apsc imo...
Sure they are!

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Originally Posted by f16sunshine View Post
... The new bayer body is an interest development. X-trans solved one issue but has created some others ...
Not for me. The AA-less Fujisensor has brought the most advantages and other issues are not visible for me or at least in my way of use.

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Originally Posted by f16sunshine View Post
...Fuji has a nice history of creating a good path for bayer output (S5 pro anyone?) ...
Fuji has made small cams with CCDs that do very well, too. But the S5Pro has an Super CCD SR sensor what is a direct predecessor to the X-Trans.
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Old 10-21-2017   #9
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A photographer whose work I admire has written a column about the improvement in sensor performance allowing us to produce higher quality images with smaller sensors and smaller cameras, I think you might find it of interest.

https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.co...ntingdown.html
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Old 10-21-2017   #10
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Currently use 3 current generation Fujis (24mp). They are great enough that I don't miss FF at all. I've just bought a Sony RX100 IV as well. Not because I think it is just as good as my Fujis, but because some places in South America will target me for my camera. I think having a small camera (with a decent sensor) that isn't super expensive gives me opportunity to still make quality photos. If I do get robbed, it is $600 instead of $1300-1600+ ...
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Old 10-21-2017   #11
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35 and 50 mm Leica Lenses are same size. My 35 2.0 V4 lives on the M8. Full frame for ASPH.
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Old 10-21-2017   #12
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I think it depends a lot on how much you crop and how large you print. I tend to compose right out to the edges of the viewfinder and print full frame (a carry over from years of shooting slides) and rarely print over 10x15, so the ASP-C sensors in the Fuji cameras suit me. I don't use many lenses and I like the haptics of the Fujis over the Sonys.
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Old 10-21-2017   #13
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I prefer compact cameras and lenses, because they're lighter and a better fit for small hands. Initially I bought a Canon 5D (the original) because it had the best affordable IQ and viewfinder (compared to APS-C), and a great choice of affordable lenses.

APS-C with lenses designed for FF coverage capture the sweet spot of the image circle but that doesn't save much bulk and weight when most of that bulk and weight is lenses not bodies. APS-C was great for situations requiring longer reach because of the crop factor.

Fuji hit the ball out of the park with their range of compact primes for APS-C. Olympus/Panasonic/Voigtlander achieved similar happy outcomes for micro 4/3. Canikon are still lagging in this regard.

Improvements in EVFs seem to be a game-changer for smaller sensor cameras, offering a VF experience similar to 35mm film SLRs: big and bright. I've looked through some in camera stores and they seem to be getting better all the time, with lag becoming hardly noticeable.

If I were starting from scratch, I'd go for APS-C - probably Fuji, even though I prefer Bayer to X-trans. I trust Fuji more than Sony. If Canikon offered a set of compact primes I'd consider them.

Years ago I conjectured that APS-C would be squeezed out by micro 4/3 on one side and FF on the other. With improvements in APS-C sensors and lenses, I'm starting to think FF will become a niche formerly occupied by medium format. A generation that used Canikon FF lenses will die out. The new generation will start without a bag full of legacy FF lenses and will find APS-C more than sufficient.

There are now a number of APS-C lenses that have a fast enough aperture to get shallow DOF where that is needed.

So in answer to your question, I agree with you about APS-C.. it has many advantages.

The only caveat is those of us who like to buy quality secondhand FF lenses at bargain prices, and use them at their intended focal lengths.

One other thing: it's possible to carry a very small and light FF DSLR. My Canon 6D with EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake will fit in a jacket pocket. It's not much different in size and weight than some APS-C cameras. Put an Canon L lens on it and it's a different story, of course.
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Old 10-21-2017   #14
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I think the DP Merrills were ground breaking in spite of their limitations. Something that small that can deliver that type of colour and resolution is a god send if you like bush walking or outdoor activities. I wouldn't use anything else for that environment these days so yes small is good.
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Old 10-22-2017   #15
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Quote:
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I think the DP Merrills were ground breaking in spite of their limitations. Something that small that can deliver that type of colour and resolution is a god send if you like bush walking or outdoor activities...
But the Sigma is not as small as a Fuji X-M1 and the fixed lens may collect dust you won´t get off anymore.
If I would like to have a APS-C for outdoor activities I´d rather put a pancake lens on a X-M1 and go.
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Old 10-22-2017   #16
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Quote:
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I think the DP Merrills were ground breaking in spite of their limitations. Something that small that can deliver that type of colour and resolution is a god send if you like bush walking or outdoor activities. I wouldn't use anything else for that environment these days so yes small is good.

Whenever I see colours like the turk-stone colour, the dark-red of a dying maple leaf, or the silver-blue of water surface at dusk, I wish I had a DP Merrill.
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Old 10-22-2017   #17
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.

For me the sweet spot is the APS-C sensor. High speed, long focal length lenses are still big and heavy, but the majority of lenses that we normally use are, for me, conveniently sized. I know that many of us think that the image quality edge goes to full frame and disagree with me. But my conviction is that sensors have improved dramatically and there are so many other factors in image quality that sensor size is no longer the overriding factor that it might have been. Processing programs and our ability with them have a huge effect. And those many things that effect image quality in all photography - lens quality, accurate focus, lack of camera movement, are once again in full play.

Does sensor size matter? Of course. But in that long list of different sized sensors, are two adjacent sensor sizes dramatically different in performance. I don’t think so. And I do think in many situations, the smaller lenses that are part and parcel of the smaller sensor rig give us a more compact rig that offers advantages in a variety of situations. Smaller sensor - smaller lenses - smaller rig. To me, that can be important, and I would like to know how you feel about it.
Bill, I fully agree with you.
At the age of 77 years, and not in the best of health, I find that I can only cope with equipment that is small and of low weight.

For day-to-day family photos I acquired an Olympus E-P5 micro 4/3rds and a VF4 finder which I use with a C-mount adapter and a small but quality Cine-Nikkor 50mm f1.8.
I am very pleased with the results I obtain with this small light-weight set-up.
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Old 10-22-2017   #18
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While I like the idea of smaller camera with smaller lenses I find it incredibly hard to find such a thing. I do agree that apsc is a good spot to be but either the choice of lenses is too limited and not really up to the standard of FF or you end up with FF lenses anyhow (with an adapter added in for good measure) or (and in my opinion worse) you end up with an apsc lens that is designed for it and of good quality but of such size that it is larger and heavier than a FF one.
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Old 10-22-2017   #19
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While I like the idea of smaller camera with smaller lenses I find it incredibly hard to find such a thing. I do agree that apsc is a good spot to be but either the choice of lenses is too limited and not really up to the standard of FF ...
What do you think Fujifilm is lacking?
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Old 10-22-2017   #20
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I often balance the issue of sensor size (and lens and camera size) with the additional satisfaction factor os using my M8 or M9. Say, I take with me on a trip one m 4/3 camera and the M9. If I then use a 28mm lens and a 40mm lens, the perspective or the crop will be 28-40-56-80 depending on which lens is used with which sensor sized camera.
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Old 10-22-2017   #21
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...mm lens and a 40mm lens, the perspective or the crop will be 28-40-56-80 depending on which lens is used with which sensor sized camera.
But - what is the real advantage above carrying two additional lenses or a small zoomlens for the M9?

Look here
(Sure there are smaller bodies for mft but top of the line grows bigger and heavier. And top of the line is where I count the M9)
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Old 10-22-2017   #22
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The advantage is saving on weight. It is a huge advantage when traveling with the family during the warm summer months and when we walk around and up and down hills all day long each day. A small and light 40mm or 50mm RF lens becomes my 80mm tele without me having to pack a real 80 or 90 or 100 lens for the M9.
Last summer we were in Italy. Robert B traveled to the same location before we did, and he "warned" me of some up hill walks that were challenging. I left the M9 behind, and I took with me 2 m4/3 cameras with very light lenses.
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Old 10-22-2017   #23
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Quote:
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The advantage is saving on weight. It is a huge advantage when traveling with the family during the warm summer months and when we walk around and up and down hills all day long each day. A small and light 40mm or 50mm RF lens becomes my 80mm tele without me having to pack a real 80 or 90 or 100 lens for the M9.
Last summer we were in Italy. Robert B traveled to the same location before we did, and he "warned" me of some up hill walks that were challenging. I left the M9 behind, and I took with me 2 m4/3 cameras with very light lenses.
I agree with you Raid. When travelling I find that small light-weight quality cameras and lenses are the best equipment and are a huge advantage especially at my age when carrying heavy cameras and lenses are just out of the question.
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Old 10-22-2017   #24
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But - what is the real advantage above carrying two additional lenses or a small zoomlens for the M9?

Look here
(Sure there are smaller bodies for mft but top of the line grows bigger and heavier. And top of the line is where I count the M9)
Not everyone needs an Em-1, especially for the people who are satisfied with what M9 can do.
Some small bodied M4/3 camera has same sensor with the em1, and still more functions than the M9. They are, to me, perfect travel cameras, with or without additional lenses.
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Old 10-22-2017   #25
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While I like the idea of smaller camera with smaller lenses I find it incredibly hard to find such a thing. I do agree that apsc is a good spot to be but either the choice of lenses is too limited and not really up to the standard of FF or you end up with FF lenses anyhow (with an adapter added in for good measure) or (and in my opinion worse) you end up with an apsc lens that is designed for it and of good quality but of such size that it is larger and heavier than a FF one.
This is one of the reasons I used Olympus 4/3 E system (along with Canon). The Olympus zooms were usually a bit smaller but also faster than equivalent Canon zooms--plus they were just as sharp or sharper. Most of my Canon lenses were made for full frame/35mm format so they were overly big and heavy. I still use those E system lenses adapted to the Olympus OMD E-M1 but the Micro 4/3 format has less appeal today now that I'm using Fuji gear. Fuji prime lenses are small and optically superb and the cameras handle better IMO. But I can't really compare the Fuji zooms in size since I don't own any (although I have a used 18-55 on order).
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Old 10-22-2017   #26
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Right now my EDC is an APS-C Pentax K-3 with the tough as nails Pentax 20-40 (30-60 FF). Optical VF and plenty weather and water resistant.

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Old 10-22-2017   #27
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Not everyone needs an Em-1, especially for the people who are satisfied with what M9 can do.
Some small bodied M4/3 camera has same sensor with the em1, and still more functions than the M9. They are, to me, perfect travel cameras, with or without additional lenses.
Okay so far. But - in my opinion fourthirds colour rendering is far away from Leica. There are other (better I mean) options to complete a setup you described. Fuji colours and Fuji or Sony bodies for example are worth to have a look at.

"Smaller sensor - smaller lenses" doesn´t count here because the M9 makes the rules for the lens size.
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Old 10-22-2017   #28
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"Smaller sensor - smaller lenses" doesn´t count here because the M9 makes the rules for the lens size.
Makes the rules for manual lens size. Leica autofocus lenses are enormous, e.g. the 50mm Summilux for the SL. Lenses like the 23mm and 35mm for the Fuji are small and quick to autofocus.
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Old 10-22-2017   #29
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What do you think Fujifilm is lacking?
A 24/2.8, 16/2.8, 80-sh/2.8 1:1 macro and an DSLR. They do have primes but it are bloody big 1.4 ones. Heck I even would be happy with f/4, iso is good enough.

I don't like the handling of the Fuji either, got a Xpro-1 and got rid of it after a week. Stabilisation was awful, the exp comp dial got in the way every time and the evf was a disgrace to a viewfinder. Borrowed an XT-1 and it was larger but not better.

Today I went to a railroad model show, didn't use anything wider than f/8 and even that was at the limit. If I had a tripod I wouldn't have got wider than f/16.
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Old 10-22-2017   #30
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Makes the rules for manual lens size. Leica autofocus lenses are enormous, e.g. the 50mm Summilux for the SL. Lenses like the 23mm and 35mm for the Fuji are small and quick to autofocus.
M9 lenses are not comparable with SL-Lenses. Other system, other sensor-size.
But all lenses that originally are made for a M(9) are usable by the named bodies.
The sensor size 24x36 of the m9 makes the rules here for the physical size of the lenses.
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Old 10-22-2017   #31
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Right now my EDC is an APS-C Pentax K-3 with the tough as nails Pentax 20-40 (30-60 FF). Optical VF and plenty weather and water resistant.

Pretty nice...
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Old 10-22-2017   #32
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A 24/2.8, 16/2.8, 80-sh/2.8 1:1 macro and an DSLR. They do have primes but it are bloody big 1.4 ones. Heck I even would be happy with f/4, iso is good enough.
Ok... but they do have a 23mm f/2, a 27mm 2.8, a 16mm 1.4 (its not that big!), a 80mm macro coming very soon...

ok, they aren't going to have a DSLR...

Quote:
I don't like the handling of the Fuji either, got a Xpro-1 and got rid of it after a week. Stabilisation was awful, the exp comp dial got in the way every time and the evf was a disgrace to a viewfinder. Borrowed an XT-1 and it was larger but not better.
That was 6 years ago... it was its first camera. and the XT1 was certainly better in the VF area. You just don't like mirrorless perhaps?
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Old 10-22-2017   #33
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No sense trying to talk him into a Fuji; his mind is made up. There are plenty of other cameras to choose from.
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Old 10-22-2017   #34
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No sense trying to talk him into a Fuji; his mind is made up. There are plenty of other cameras to choose from.
True... .,..
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Old 10-22-2017   #35
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Originally Posted by Spanik View Post
A 24/2.8, 16/2.8, 80-sh/2.8 1:1 macro and an DSLR. They do have primes but it are bloody big 1.4 ones. Heck I even would be happy with f/4, iso is good enough.

I don't like the handling of the Fuji either, got a Xpro-1 and got rid of it after a week. Stabilisation was awful, the exp comp dial got in the way every time and the evf was a disgrace to a viewfinder. Borrowed an XT-1 and it was larger but not better.

Today I went to a railroad model show, didn't use anything wider than f/8 and even that was at the limit. If I had a tripod I wouldn't have got wider than f/16.
Maybe you missed the 14/2.8, 18/2, 23/2, 27/2.8, 35/2, 50/2, maybe a couple I've forgotten. Only the 14mm is a bit larger but still pretty small. Only the high speed lenses and some of the zooms can be considered large and they're still small compared to the behemoth Canon L-series lenses.

The handling is subjective, of course--I consider the Fuji user interface superior. I love the X-Pro1 despite the viewfinder and the X-T1 was the camera that finally got me to accept and then to like EVFs. Different strokes, etc., but you can't fault Fuji for having oversize standard primes.

Oops! I didn't see that jsrockit already made these points. Just consider my comment as seconding his.

Last edited by Dogman : 10-22-2017 at 15:35. Reason: Failure to maintain attention
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Old 10-22-2017   #36
ptpdprinter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanik View Post
Today I went to a railroad model show...
They really have those?
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Old 10-22-2017   #37
Timmyjoe
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I love the whole concept of smaller sensor, smaller/lighter camera package. Just not crazy about the reality of said package.

My two biggest problems with the 1" sensor package I tried using were its much worse ISO noise above ISO 1600, and its far too much depth of field, even with lenses of aperture 1.2.

If someone could solve those problems, I would be interested, because I certainly love the lighter weight.

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Old 10-22-2017   #38
jsrockit
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Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
My two biggest problems with the 1" sensor package I tried using were its much worse ISO noise above ISO 1600, and its far too much depth of field, even with lenses of aperture 1.2.
I get what you are saying, but it is now my go-to camera in situations where I might be robbed.
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